The Anvil of Crom: Curing the alt disease

Alas, my poor rangers. Left to rot in the aftermath of the great ranger nerf revamp of 2010. Twisting in the wind like those gruesome impaled corpses Funcom is so fond of sprinkling throughout Age of Conan's various zones. Yes, I've abandoned the class, simply because I don't have the desire to relearn it from scratch, which is what such a complete overhaul requires. To be fair, it's not so much a nerf as it is a re-imagining, and one of these days I'll get around to leveling at least one of them the rest of the way to 80.

For now though, the change has prompted me to return to my original character, rolled way back on the head-start weekend in May 2008. He's an assassin, and I recently got him to 80, though he too has gone through quite a revamp since his original creation. Anyway, once I heard that final, magical ding, guess what I did? Nope, I didn't head to Khitai to partake of the new level 80 content. Nay, I didn't start grinding my perks or faction either. No, I promptly logged back to the character select screen and rolled up a guardian, planting his newbie feet on the beach at Tortage and wriggling his virtual toes in the sand before beginning the process all over again.

Point and laugh after the cut.

Why? Why you may ask? Why roll a new character mere moments after reaching the mythical and much-vaunted endgame? I honestly don't know, other than that the treadmill aspect of these games seems to somehow have hardwired itself to my brain. Maybe I've been in the leveling groove so much over the last few days, pushing hard toward 80, that some uncharted portion of my subconscious wasn't ready to give it up. Maybe I'm just sadomasochistic. Maybe, just maybe, I have that most incurable (and hopefully not contagious) of diseases: the dreaded altitis.

In all fairness, I knew I was going to roll a guard a few weeks ago, as my guild is currently suffering through a severe tank shortage. I didn't know it would be so soon after dinging, however. The funny thing about Age of Conan is that unlike the classes in many other MMOs, the classes in AoC all feel substantially different from one another, and even though I'm now slogging through Tortage for the 3,720th time, I'm actually OK with it (and even, gasp, enjoying it again). Now, all that said, I'm definitely splitting time between my new character and my freshly minted 80. After all, there's no point in finally reaching endgame and failing to take advantage, right? Not only that, but I'm also itching to kick-start the career of my demonologist. Oh and that barbarian sitting on my select screen looks pretty wicked too. And I always wanted to play a healer, maybe the perennially devastating tempest of Set?

AoC assassinArgghhh.

Hi, I'm Jef, and I'm an altoholic.

Altogether now: Hi, Jef!

I suppose when you get right down to it, this is a good problem to have, as it means I won't get bored with the game anytime soon, and there's always something new and interesting to do. Even the same content *cough* White Sands *cough* seems somewhat fresh when viewed through the lens of a new character (or in my particular case, a whole new archetype, as I almost always play some form of squishy DPS).

Looking at my character select screen, bursting at the seams with a rogue's gallery of Hyborian badassery, I feel a bit like I used to imagine smoking-hot girls must feel on a Saturday night. Hmm, whom do I want to take me out? Instead of the quarterback, the college guy, or the captain of industry, it's the conqueror, the bear shaman, or the necromancer (eww). Decisions, decisions.

Aside from the aesthetics and the thrill of seeing if the grass is in fact greener, the other appeal of alternate characters is to satisfy certain parts of my gaming OCD (well OK, one part of it, namely, the one that always feels like I'm missing something). Yep, I'm talking about the completionist. Intellectually I know it's nigh impossible to experience every single quest in Age of Conan. Hell, it's probably impossible to experience three quarters of them, particularly with the addition of Khitai and the fact that I'm physically incapable of playing one MMORPG at a time. Nonetheless, the completionist demands that I make the effort, and how better to do so than via alt characters who can actually experience quest content as it was intended, rather than powering through a mass of wilting grey mobs on an obscenely overpowered max-level 'sin.

Along these same lines, I recently discovered that AoC's destiny quest actually features different quests (and cutscenes) based on your character's archetype. Since I've mostly played rogues prior to rolling a guardian, I was unaware of the fact that the soldier archetype advances along a parallel path. (Rather than skulking his way into Strom's hideout as my rangers and assassin did, I'll be pounding my way through the front door, hopefully cleaving a wide swath of hapless Red Hand guards in my wake.) There are also subtle differences in the way the story plays out in regard to NPCs you talk to, quest objectives you receive, etc.

In closing, I guess there really is no curing the alt disease (nor does it necessarily need curing), particularly in a title where all of the classes are quite enjoyable and leveling is not the drawn-out exercise in tedium that it is in many other games. Age of Conan has lots of replay value thanks to a generous helping of character slots, diverse post-20 leveling locales and quest lines, and the always-interesting combat system. It's almost tailor-made for the time-starved curious gamer whom your humble columnist is morphing into.

Speaking of time, I've exhausted my allotment for the week. Join me next time as I run my assassin across the rooftops of my favorite high-level zone: Tarantia Commons. Until then, I leave you with my character select screen.

Jef Reahard is an Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran, as well as the creator of Massively's weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via
This article was originally published on Massively.